iPad Mini Being Readied for Production: Report

A smaller iPad "mini" has been rumored since the launch of the iPad 3. According to a new report, suppliers have been told to prep themselves for "mass production" of a 7-inch tablet, representing a change of heart for Apple.

Seemingly swayed by the success and appeal of Android smartphones, Apple is rumored to be planning an iPhone that features a larger display than its previous five models. Likewise, as Android supporters focus on the 7-inch tablet form factor, Apple is said to be planning a smaller version of its nearly 10-inch tablet, which has been called the iPad Mini.

In March, eWEEK cited an IHS iSuppli report that said a 7-inch version of the iPad was being planned for a release during the winter holiday shopping season. According to component suppliers, said the report, the new Apple tablet will feature a 7.85-inch XGA display.

On July 5, The Wall Street Journal reported that component suppliers, declining to be named, said that Apple has told them to prepare €œfor mass production of the smaller tablet.€

Sources told The Journal that Apple is working with screen makers including LG Display of South Korea and AU Optronics in Taiwan.

LG Display and Samsung€”Apple€™s business partner and legal adversary€”is said to be the supplier of the third-generation iPad€™s Retina display, according to Reuters. A bill of materials compiled by IHS has found the price of the iPad display to have risen considerably between iterations, from $57 on the iPad 2 to $87 on the iPad 3.

While Google€™s Android already runs on a number of tablets, the search company introduced its own branded device (made by Asus) at its I/O developers€™ conference in San Francisco in late June. Called the Nexus 7, the device feature s a 7-inch display, which Google execs touted as particularly easy to hold and carry around.

Pricing for the Nexus 7 starts at $199, which puts the 7-inch Kindle Fire most obviously in its cross hairs, though the media-focused Nexus 7€”which Google says was designed for Google Play€”is likely to also affect sales of Barnes & Noble€™s 7-inch Nook and Samsung€™s Galaxy Tab 2 7.0.

That Apple should consider (or have planned) a 7-inch tablet is telling of how the market and consumer tastes have changed since the introduction of the original iPad in January 2010. Perhaps Apple, too, has changed. Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who passed away in 2011, was adamant that a 7-inch form factor made for a lousy user experience.

€œThese 7-inch tablets are tweeners€”too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad,€ Jobs told media and analysts in October 2010, surprising them by joining an earnings call.

Jobs added, €œThese are among the reasons that the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA€”dead on arrival.€

That said, Jobs was also known for his ability to change his mind and feel passionately about something, despite having earlier backed the opposite position with equal fervor.

Ken Segall, a brilliant ad man who worked with Apple for more than a decade, in his book Insanely Simple tells the story of convincing Jobs that iMac was a better name for Apple€™s new computer than the name Jobs was favoring: MacMan.

€œHe had an opinion. A very strong opinion,€ wrote Segall. €œThe kind of opinion that might knock you over and kick you a few times. But that€™s not to say he wasn€™t reasonable or wouldn€™t ultimately change his mind if confronted with heartfelt opinions presented with passion.€